Rufus Wainwright and Ingrid Michaelson show off new sounds

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Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

Rufus Wainwright is the son of two famous folk singers, but don't expect his concert to be an ode to that format.

The son of the late Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III certainly writes about his parents and other famous family members, but his work is more classical mixed with Judy Garland pop than any Woody Guthrie folk. Fans will hear that on his latest album, "Out of the Game," produced by Mark Ronson.

"What I wanted was a warmth and a depth in terms of quality of sound, and a certain clarity that's still easy on the ears," Wainwright said, noting that while he feels comfortable in the classical world, he turned to Ronson to help him weave the pop sound throughout it. "I've done that whole ponderous, pseudo-genius thing, so it was fun to get in there and work really fast and do something that was more about the songs."

Not that he comes from a great line of somber songwriters. After all, his Grammy Award-winning father's most notable hit was the 1972 novelty "Dead Skunk." But the younger Wainwright seems to strive for a more direct musical path described as that with "a narrative sense and wry wit while adding classic pop pleasures."

Rufus Wainwright with Ingrid Michaelson
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Wolf Trap's Filene Center, 1645 Trap Road, Vienna
Info: $40 in-house, $30 lawn; 877-WOLFTRAP (965-3872);

What that means sonically, at least on his latest album, is something as old-school pop as Elton John and Harry Nilsson mixed with his beloved classic sound and contemporary pop. To get the recipe just right, guests including Sean Lennon and Nick Zinner, of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, joined Wainwright.

"There was nothing precious about the recordings," Ronson said of how easy it was to work with Wainwright. "The band was playing live, with Rufus singing on a couch in the control room. For the most part, the songs are what was recorded in that take, and it feels like you're sitting there with the band."

That makes Wainwright well-matched with his tour partner, Ingrid Michaelson, who is supporting her latest album, "Human Again." Although it's grounded in the clear singer-songwriter sound Michaelson has honed, this music has bigger, bolder sound than her past work. The more mature sound reflects Michaelson's life, especially her professional journey since the 2006 release of her album "Girls and Boys."

And, again, it seems to underscore her musical connection with Wainwright.

"Because I'm older and I've had different experiences, there's a diversity in my life that I wanted the record to express," said Wainwright. "That's always been my mission, to make albums with variety and a sense of perspective on all that music can be."

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